Middlesex University RIP

posted in: Academic & Research | 0

I left Middlesex University over a year ago but still receive enquiries from time to time. If you are such an enquirer, I invite you to read this post. The opinions expressed are entirely my own and, although I would not recommend anyone to apply to work or study at Midddlesex University, you should find out more in order to inform your own decisions.

You may have noticed earlier this week that Prof Edith Hall, a renowned classicist, has resigned from the University of London. This is taken from her letter of resignation as published in the Observer newspaper of 27 November:

“The intense stresses of a professional environment in which the senior management do not in my view uphold the values definitive of a university, and whose fiscal competence I do not trust, make it impossible for me to continue teaching and conducting research at Royal Holloway.”

I have never met Prof. Hall but, in her comments, she describes perfectly the feelings of many present and past academics whose universities have decided to turn their backs upon academe and focus on simple profit (the word used is “sustainability”). Sadly, this is a situation that has become all too common. If you’ve looked at any of several pages on this site, you’ll be aware that I used to work for Middlesex University. I spent much of my career there and at the various colleges that formed both it and its predecessor, Middlesex Polytechnic. Much of that time was exciting, happy and stimulating: I was honoured to meet and work with some fantastic people whose ideas were an inspiration to me and I had a number of unique opportunities for which I’m ever grateful. However, the time has now come for me to disassociate myself from my former University. Here’s why:

I retired from Middlesex in July 2010 – on my birthday, actually, since this was the earliest day upon which I could claim my pension. You might take this a being an indication that the shine had worn off my relationship with my employer and you’d be dead right: over the years, Middlesex has transformed from being an exciting, forward-looking and academically inspiring centre of excellence into a thoroughly degraded institution whose academic and human standards have deteriorated to a point where, in my opinion, its claim to be a university is the latest thing to be found to be unsustainable. Over a period of years, a number of important subject areas have been thrown out: engineering, history, philosophy (including the internationally regarded Centre for Modern European Philosophy) and much research. With wholesale compulsory redundancies under way, many other subjects are threatened, especially in the arts and humanities. Why? You guessed it – sustainability!

So, in order to be “sustainable” high profile overseas developments and vanity building projects have become the focus of investment. Staff no longer have offices in which to deal with confidential matters, in part perhaps because the University finds them inconvenient or, more likely, threatening.  However, a greater threat comes from abandonment of its own regulations during the latter part of my time there: potentially inconvenient rules relating to quality assurance were repeatedly ignored with the result that academic standards in some areas declined drastically.

As Prof. Hall wrote: “…… the senior management do not in my view uphold the values definitive of a university ……” and, in recent times, this has certainly become true of Middlesex too. Philosophy and research underpin all of academic learning and teaching and, by throwing them out, Middlesex fatally undermined its own validity as a university. In my opinion, it is now acting dishonestly in  continuing to lay claim to such a title.